Monday, January 26, 2015

The Denominational Academy Awards

Last night was the first of the main movie/actor/director awards programs of the season - the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAGA).  And once again, for some unknown reason, the remote control to my TV was somehow inexplicably drawn to stop on that particular channel and watch the show. As usual, the room was filled with bubbly, beautiful, actors and actresses, perfect couture dresses, immaculately tailored tuxes and the usual giddy frivolity and decadence that surrounds such events.  You've seen these shows many times.  And now, there isn't just one of them - the Oscars.  There are numerous awards events (The Golden Globes, the People's Choice, the Grammys, the Emmys, and many others).  By the way, the official Academy Awards isn't until Feb. 22, in case you want to mark your calendars.

As I was watching the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night, I was reminded once again, just how  beautiful and yet how boring these events always turn out to be.  On the one hand, there are the stars, the movies, the clothes, the glamour, the glitz - which is sort of fun to watch.  On the other hand, there are the speeches, the tributes, the tearful thank-yous which are about the most painful, plodding long-winded diatribes that were ever uttered.  They always go something like this:

"I can't believe I have just been given this award.  It means so much to me.  And I am in such a rarified group of competitors for this award.  Well, I want to thank the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Equity acting company, my incredible production team, the directors of the film Harvey Weinstein, the make-up artists...and most of all my mother…."

After about 20 of these speeches, you can almost recite them from memory.  And then it occurred to me.  Nobody in TV land (you and me and 30 million other people) really care about all of the Guilds, the Actors Unions, the Directors Unions, the Producers Unions.  We don't care.  We know they exist, but we would really rather not hear about them at all.  We watch the shows to see the movie stars and to observe the banter.  However, even though none of these Actors unions matter to you and I, it is quite clear that they matter a lot to the "insiders".  The actors, directors and writers clubs and guilds matter a lot to those who are a part of them every single day.

And then I stumbled upon a revelation.  The central theme of this blogpost.  Actors and Directors Guilds are actually not that different from Religious Denominations these days.  For people who are intricately connected to the workings of Religious Denominations, Denominations matter - A LOT.  It matters a lot to "insiders" whether you are a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) or the Missouri Synod Lutherans (MSL).  It matters a lot of to "insiders" if you are a member of the Southern Baptist Denomination, or the American Baptist Denomination. It matters a lot to "insiders" if you are a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO), the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), or the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).  But here's a newsflash - it doesn't matter at all to "outsiders".  Actually, those outside the church (people who are dechurched) actually find the conversation quite annoying and boring.

Just imagine what a Denominational Academy Awards Show might look like:

"Wow, I am so excited to get this award.  I want to thank the other denominations here tonight who are our competitors, what an amazing field of contestants.  You are all so wonderful.  Most of all I want to thank the OPCA (The Orthodox Presbyterian Church of America), and more specifically, the PNC and the COM Committee and the CDC have just been such a help to us as we have put together this worship service.  This means so much to me, most of all I want to thank my mother...."

For outsiders to the faith, these kinds of conversations offer the same level of a comatose inducing stupor as speeches by actors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  They seem so important to the "insiders" but to "outsiders" they just wish that the church would get on with worshipping God, doing mission, loving neighbors, doing more baptisms, and helping more people.

What am I really trying to say?  Of course denominations matter.  Of course they do.  Of course there are significant differences in the way that various denominations conduct business, think about orthodoxy, make decisions, include or exclude women, interpret the Bible, and a whole range of other issues.  It's just that incessant chatter about the internal mechanics of a denomination are often the very thing that pushes away and even repulses unchurched people.

"Before I close this blogpost, I just want to thank all of the people who made this blogpost possible…."

Or not:-)

All For Now,

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